Jake Nunn – Vocals/ Guitar
Tony Campos – Lead Guitar
Herman Bandala – Bass
Mike Smith – Drums
- On The Loose
- Born To Burn
- Transcending Evil
- Lashing Out
- The Dreamer
- Knights Of The Holy
Hell Fire has definitely hit its goal of keeping the 80s Thrash sound alive and well. Mania is the group’s third album and the first real one with record label RidingEasy Records. The label reissued their previous album Free Again earlier to vinyl.
“Thematically, everything on the album comes from personal experiences,” says vocalist/guitarist Jake Nunn. “From the highs of partying together out here in Oakland, or the nostalgia of being a kid learning Zeppelin on a beat-up guitar, to the extreme lows of isolation, personal trauma, and mental illness.”
We were able to spend a bit more time arranging the songs and writing from a more personal perspective lyrically. We came out of this recording feeling much more accomplished with our performances and couldn’t be more happy for this to be our first release with RidingEasy Records.”
The first track of the album is ‘Warpath’ which sets the general tone of the album with speedy and technical riffs to make your head spin in awe of Tony Campos. The off-beat drums with accents give a quirky rickety train vibe and a false sense of awkward time signatures. In the second half of the song, the use of the ride brings a much needed and much more satisfying feeling while still keeping to the thrash conventions. Jake Nunn’s vocals were somewhat strained in this one however this is a nice, melodic choice to kick off an album. They want you to know that they aren’t here to mess around.
I love the more moody, guttural vibe that the lower guitar groove brings in ‘Mania’, edging on the track. The contrasting vocals work well, however, I personally prefer Nunn’s vocals lower as he sounds to possess a lot more power and control when doing so. The little melodic phrases bring some enjoyable peeks to brightness in an otherwise dark song.
‘On The Loose’ was probably my favourite track on the album, featuring colourful picking on the guitars combined with a slight swing beat. The vocal range here feels a lot more comfortable to listen to with the occasional use of a higher phrase which compliments the song fairly well. The instrumentals in between the vocals are a personal highlight. The backing vocals in this were also nice and strong.
‘Born To Burn’ was a lot more chaotic and messy sounding with an offbeat that threw the song off generally with a feeling that the there was a lack of consistency. Considering the drums made the track feel uneasy, the guitars again bring back some consistency (especially the bass in this one) with the vocals shouty yet strong.
The beginning of ‘Transcending’ is a 40 second instrumental with an acoustic guitar, obviously very different from the thrash metal genre. Nunn’s vocals are much more melodic for this song and in my opinion, suit him a lot better. The more relaxed and weirdly romantic vibes in the instrumentals last up until the two minutes and 30 seconds. From that point, the track goes back to the heavier feeling to mirror the rest of the album whilst keeping to the slightly slower tempo. It is, however, a very long song which for some may make the track seem a bit more on the tedious side.
‘Lashing Out’ starts with Hell Fire’s favourite drum pattern resembling a train. At this point, some concern is raised as it starts to give the impression that it’s the drums struggling to keep up with everything else as opposed to being the backbone of the band. The guitar chords and vocals in this one merge together nicely. A guitar solo nearer the end brings some added oomph that was definitely needed with a well organised stop-start ending.
A slower, lower and repetitive riff is the theme of ‘Isolator’ musically. I get the sense of the Metallica influence but also a brighter feeling than theirs along with more drive from Hell Fire to show off their technical skills. The jumpy feeling between the verses wasn’t as smooth as maybe they could have been, however, the solo in this one was by far my favourite. The knowledge of when to build and when to really go for it was impressive.
The stop-starts in ‘The Dreamer’ I like, with a generally cleaner sound in terms of synchronicity which makes the track more generally satisfying than other tracks on the album which are a bit more rough around the edges. The song isn’t bad but I’m not overly insane over it. The riff works fairly well with the vocals, being catchy in their own right as well as working well in combination with everything else. The higher vocals near the end to give a sense of being strained.
‘Knights Of The Holy’ is another longer song so grabbing some food to eat whilst listening to this one is advised. The more chilled out vibe is pretty enjoyable with a push in vocals through to the chorus. In this one, the higher notes were well controlled. Again, there wasn’t anything majorly special however there wasn’t really anything wrong with it either. Personally, having a long song nearer the end isn’t the smartest of ideas unless it’s the very last as it feels like it challenges a listener to just naturally zone out no matter how heavy or technical it could be. The way it ends is much more intriguing.
Shifts from major to minor chords in ‘Masochist’ definitely caught my attention, which definitely needed bringing back. The constant use of build ups in this track is a highlight, showing off the moody but exciting undertones. These undertones work well with Jake Nunn’s vocals, although towards the end the obnoxiously shouty vocals for the sake of it are back. The unconventional use of 6/8 towards the end shows a last-minute use of flare to sign off the end of a generally technically sound album by Hell Fire.